By K. KHODANIAN
On June 15, 2023, we commemorated the 108th anniversary of the martyrdom of the twenty heroes of the Social Democratic Hunchakian Party. These brave individuals were hanged by the Turkish government in Istanbul’s Bayazit Square in 1915 after being accused of organizing an assassination attempt against Turkish leaders who were planning the relocation and killings of their Armenian subjects.
Even after the arrests of Armenian intellectuals starting on April 24 of the same year, the elite living in Istanbul mostly remained unaware of the displacement and massacres of the Armenian population in the provinces. It was only on the morning of June 15 that the Armenians of Istanbul, seeing the bodies of the Twenty hanging in the square, reflected for the first time on the seriousness of the moment and became aware of the terrible fate that befell their compatriots, with more than 1.5 million becoming victims.
The martyrdom of the Twenty, though not distinct from the other victims of the genocide, holds special significance due to the political foresight they demonstrated. Their actions contrasted with the continued faith and cooperation shown by other political and intellectual leaders with the Young Turks government.
The fate of the Western Armenians could have been different if the Twenty and their Party had succeeded in carrying out the secret decisions of the 7th Congress of the SDHP held in 1913 in Romania and were able to carry out their goal by eliminating the executioners who were planning genocide against the Armenians.
As the Twenty stood at the gallows, they declared, “You hang twenty of us, but twenty thousand will come to take our revenge,” and prophesied, “Tomorrow, on the eastern horizon, you will see the rebirth of Armenia.” These words, relayed by the priest who gave them their last rites, immortalized the Twenty as symbols within the ranks of the Hunchakian Party. Their memory has been preserved through numerous poems, songs, and publications in Armenia, the diaspora, and even Turkey itself. Today, Turkish progressive intellectuals hold great reverence for the speeches and writings of the Twenty’s leader, Mateos Sarkisian, known as Paramaz, recognizing him as the pioneer who spread socialist ideology in the Ottoman Empire.
While the Twenty couldn’t prevent the genocide inflicted upon our people, they succeeded in keeping the ideological foundations of the Hunchakian Party alive for future generations. Over the past 136 years, the Mother Party has been guided by these principles, which center around unwavering dedication to Armenia, the protection of Armenian rights, social justice for all, and democracy. Guided by these convictions, the SDHP remains steadfast in its principles within our national discourse today and supports ongoing reforms in Armenia and advances being made. Just as the Twenty believed in the eternal nature of the Armenian people, we too hold firm in our belief that, despite the present challenges, the future of Armenia will be brighter, and the SDHP should be counted at the forefront of those contributing to the building of the future of the Armenian nation.
Today, we pay homage to the Twenty Gallows and all the martyrs of the Armenian nation, expressing our deep gratitude for their sacrifices.